overt population

I’ll say one thing:   her older sister wrote
more novels than anybody I ever knew but
the novels kept coming back.   I read some
of them, or rather–parts of them.   maybe
they were good, I didn’t know, I wasn’t a
critic:   I didn’t like Tolstoy or Thomas
Mann or Henry James.
anyhow, her novels kept coming back and
her men kept leaving, and she just ate more,
had more babies; she didn’t bathe and seldom
combed her hair and she let the diapers lay
about stinking.   and she talked continually
and laughed continually–a highly nervous and
slicing laugh–she talked about men and sex
continually and I never criticized her be-
cause I sensed she had enough trouble and
I was living with her younger sister, besides.

but one afternoon when were visiting, the
older sister said to me:   “all right, I know
you’ve had some novels published but I have
these babies, these children, that’s an art,
that’s my art!”

“many people have babies,” I said, “that’s
really not exceptional, it’s rather standard.
but to write a good novel is a rare and an
exceptional thing.”

she leaped up and waved her arms:   “oh yeah.
oh yeah?   what about your daughter?   where
is your daughter now?”

“Santa Monica, California.”


I no longer see either sister, although
about 2 months ago the younger one phoned
long distance and among other things she
told me that her sister had just mailed
her latest novel off to New York and that
her sister thought it was very good, that
it was the one, that it was the one that
would do it.

I didn’t tell her younger sister that
all of us novelists think that and that
is why there are so many of us.

Charles Bukowski
Original manuscript